Ireland fans hail Six Nations conquering heroes on return from epic showdown in France
THEY'LL always have Paris! For jubilant Ireland rugby supporters it couldn't get much better than this – and on a Saint Patrick's weekend to boot.
For jubilant Ireland rugby supporters it couldn't get much better than this – and on a Saint Patrick's weekend to boot.
Newly retired man-of-the-moment Brian O'Driscoll even needed a Garda escort from Dublin Airport yesterday.
More than 1,000 supporters turned out to greet the world's most capped player and his team-mates on their return from Paris, where they won the Six Nations Championship in such nerve-shredding style on Saturday.
For O'Driscoll, Ireland's greatest player of the modern era, the emotions from the Stade de France were especially poignant as this was his last international.
The man known as BOD announced his talent to athe rugby world with an astonishing hat-trick of tries in the same stadium 14 years ago. He has now brought the curtain down on a staggering career on the back of Saturday's 22-20 victory.
Joe Schmidt's men ensured an extra incentive for celebrations on the St Patrick's weekend by winning in the French capital for only the second time in 42 years, and landing their first silverware since the 2009 Grand Slam.
Millions of fans relished the drama on TV – and afterwards in the bars of Belfast, Dublin and beyond – but many made it to Paris.
Among them was Kerri Warnock (right), a PR account manager from Carrickfergus, who was in the stadium for the "amazing" experience.
"Lots of families, wives and girlfriends appeared to have been dragged along so it was a really lovely crowd," she said.
"It was my first Ireland match in Paris and it was special. Whenever Ireland won the whole stadium erupted and it was crazy; there were grown men crying."
Belfast Media planner Sarah Speers (24) had a great view of the action from the mid-section of the stadium.
"I was at the Irish try side for the first half of the game, which was amazing," she said. "It was an incredible atmosphere. There were people of all ages there. You just became best friends with all the Irish people around you.
"For the last 10 minutes of the match my heart was in my throat. Irish people were speechless; just holding onto each other, grabbing onto any hope at all.
"It was so tense because it was so close at the end. It was brilliant; definitely the best match I've ever been to!"
"Ireland truly deserved to win. I congratulate coach Joe Schmidt and the entire Ireland squad on this memorable achievement. You have done us all proud."
Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin